In an interview with the CATHOLIC HERALD a former leader of the Austrian Young Catholic Workers (J.O.C.) spoke with great bitterness of the recent events. Though his views may not be representative of all Catholic workers in Austria, he stands for a forgotten section : those who dislike Nazism for the double reason of being workers and being Catholics.
This young Catholic worker is now in London. whence he managed to escape
from Austria. but he has asked the CATHoLIC HERALD not to publish his name. or mode of escape, 'Rotel cl taken on his parents. who are still in Aust'rla.
"There is no doubt about .one thing." he began; " the Austrian people do not object to the Anschluss on principle; ever since our Republic was founded in 1918 the vast majority of Austrians wanted to be united with Germany, particularly for economic reasons."
" What about the Habsburg sympathisers?"
" They were negligible in the country, though incidentally Mgr. Waitz sympath ised strongly with them; but their opposi tion was shared by the allied powers, who did everything to strangle Germany econ omically and politically. But within these twenty years of independence, a marked change in our attitude took place: we got used to our independence, prided ourselves in being liked by the whole world,.
and above all loathed Hitler and his regime of suppression of liberty of conscience and opinion. Thousands of refugees from Germany, especially Catholic priests and laymen, found a friendly welcome in our country, where religion is so deeply rooted."
Charges Against Hitler
"What is the Austrian Catholic? grudge against Hitler?"
" That he places himself and his government before God; that he wants to make the clergy his and his party's servants, and not God's; that he does everything to educate the young generation in a non-religious way, even in an anti-religious and pagan spirit; that he imprisoned hundreds of priests and thousands of Catholics for purely religious reasons; that he banned all Catholic activity, denies Catholic youth the right of meeting, that he persecutes priests and nuns on charges of moral offences which was just a pretext for his drive to discredit the Church in the eyes of the people.
Same as Germany
" Even these few weeks of his rule over Austria have proved that he is going to repeat the same practices as in Germany: thousands of professing Catholics— although many temporarily—are imprisoned, Catholic clubs and parish houses closed or watched, youth organisations banned and not allowed to march in groups in church processions, political flags waving from churches, and as the last word— sixty curates rounded up and arrested last week on these same moral offences ' which have proved such scandalous inventions in Germany!"
" But could the Austrian bishops have acted differently? The persecution of Catholics would have been even more ruthless had those not made their peace with Hitler?"
"No doubt the bishops acted as they thought wisest, but still the consequence may be that the Church was more damaged in a day than can he restored in a century. The people look up to the Church as its guide, churches have never been so filled as during the last crisis, and the action o' the Austrian bishops came as a shock to every true Catholic in Austria."
"Have you read Mgr. Waitz' statement?"
" I have, and it is not in my place to oppose, but I may give my personal views, subject to obedience to authority.
" I am surprised, for example, that he says not a word for Schuschnigg, whose fate is still unknown, not a word against these ghastly scenes of Jew baiting which we experience day by day. not a word of the breaking up of the families in thousands in order to 'dispose of' the unemployed; not a word of the professed immorality into which Austrian youth is compelled by joining the Hitler Youth. That is the other side.
" Speaking as a worker I should say that Austria made a mistake in following in the wake of Fascist foreign policy, robbing our country of the support of Western Democratic Powers by relying on Mussolini's assistance, who used our country as pawn to be handed over to Hitler in exchange for his support.
" Under Italian influence Dotlfuss abolished Austrian democracy in 1934. thus dividing the country into enemy camps, weakening our power of resistance.
" The rapprochment between Catholics and all other groups formerly suppressed in a last attempt to heal the split came too late; the mistakes of four years cannot be wiped out in a fortnight. Had we Austrians tried to reconcile the Socialists with our government by tackling firmly the social question and granting them these fundamental democratic liberties without which man lives in spiritual slavery, we might even have been able to maintain our independence without the help of the Democratic West."